PHILADELPHIA – Everything seems to be going Philly’s way when it comes to sports.
A Super Bowl win, a college basketball national champion, and now “The Process” is barreling into the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Oh yeah, famed rapper Meek Mill was released from prison, too.
The newly released MC joined the raucous sell-out crowd that watched the 76ers’ two young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons lead Philadelphia to a 104-91 series-clinching win over the Miami Heat.
Philadelphia, which won just 10 games just two seasons ago, is in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2012.
The Sixers won the series 4-1 and turned the Wells Fargo Center into the wildest house party in the city.
Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points and 10 boards, and the entire team was energized by Mill’s surprise appearance. Mill made a dramatic return hours after Pennsylvania’s highest court ordered him freed while he appeals decade-old gun and drug convictions.
He was taken from prison by helicopter to Philadelphia, where he rang the ceremonial bell at the start of Game 5.
“Welcome home Meek Mill,” was about all that was heard from the public address announcer as wild cheers drowned out the rest. Mill sat courtside next to comedian Kevin Hart and Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin.
The 76ers await the winner of Milwaukee-Boston. The Celtics lead the series 3-2.
Philadelphia outscored the Heat by 14 in the third quarter to snap a tie game and had fans belting “Trust the Process!”
Miami had five players finish in double figures Tuesday – led by Kelly Olynyk’s 18 points off the bench – but the Sixers got 27 from veteran J.J. Redick as he was also one of five Philly players to also tally at least 10 points.
Game Five had the same physical tone as the rest of the series. Multiple players received technical fouls, including Heat guard Goran Dragic who received his tech for “inadvertently” slapping Simmons in the back of the head.
The game was tied at 46 going into halftime, but a 34-point third-quarter outburst by Philly all but sealed Miami’s fate of a first-round exit.
Dwyane Wade played in, perhaps, his final NBA game Tuesday – finishing with 11 points, five assists and five rebounds in 31 minutes of action off the bench.
The three-time NBA champion and “Heat Lifer” just finished his 14th season in the league and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
After the game, Wade was non-committal about whether he’d play a 15th season in the league – with Miami or elsewhere.
He congratulated Embiid after the game (“the NBA is in great hands with Joel”) and said he “couldn’t have asked for a better ending” this season than to return to the Heat but did not comment further.
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said he was in no rush to discuss the potential of a Wade retirement.
“You’re going to make me emotional if we start to think about that or talk about that right now,” Spoelstra said.
– Information from the Associated Press was used in this report